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[info from detroitnews.com]

New Castle, Pa. – For 25 days, Ashanti eluded her rescuers.

Over a 10-mile stretch, up and down Interstate 376 and into Union and Neshannock townships, a group of 15 determined animal lovers tracked the lost dog from Michigan. Each time they got close, her survival instincts kicked in and she went deeper into flight mode.

In the end, though, the 2-year-old Presa Canario was no match for Team Ashanti.

Ashanti is home today because of a group of rescuers who simply refused to give up during nearly a month of relentless searching though biting rain, whipping winds and a Polar Vortex.

The fateful day

The 100-pound dog disappeared from the Moravia (Route 168) exit off I-376 on Jan. 24 when her owner, Nick Gray, a semi truck driver from Jeddo, Michigan, pulled over to give her a bathroom break.

“She kept bumping me to let know she had to go to the bathroom,” he said. “I looked for a truck stop but couldn’t find one and I thought I’d just shoot off this exit and then jump back on the ramp.


“She jumped down and within seconds, pulled her collar right over her ears. She’s never even tried to do anything like that before. It happened so fast, before I could react. She started to run toward the road and I firmly told her ‘no.’ “

The recognition of those words ultimately may have saved Ashanti’s life.

She returned to the shoulder, but then took off running.

“I was frantic,” Gray said. “I searched and called for her for an hour and a half, hoping she would show up, but eventually I had to leave to do my job. I didn’t want to go, but I knew she could by anywhere by then.”

Gray enlisted the help of his brother, Jason, who found the Lawrence County Animal Helpers and other lost pet pages on Facebook and pleaded for help. Immediately, a group of rescuers led by Leslie Mortimer contacted Jason.

And Team Ashanti was born.

Joining forces

Mortimer, who lives in Portersville, has been assembling teams to track lost animals for six years. Ashanti, whose breed is a member of the Mastiff family, tore at her heartstrings right away.

“My son is Nick’s age and he is a truck driver and has a Mastiff,” she said. “I knew we had to find his dog.

“The Gray family was phenomenal to work with. They did everything right. Jason networked like crazy and then he literally manned his phone 24/7. Our volunteers put up 350 flyers. And the community jumped in to help. Without those people who reported sightings, we wouldn’t have had a place to start.”

Mortimer started with five to six volunteers and before long, a team of 18 from Lawrence, Beaver, Butler and Allegheny counties was assembled. They formed a group chat that included Nick, Jason and their mom, Joan.

“We had boots on the ground pretty quickly, starting at the toll booth area where she was lost,” Mortimer said. “Lost dogs go into survival mode within 24 to 48 hours. They know to find shelter, lay low and conserve their energy. They also become very nocturnal and they rely very heavily on their sense of smell to find food to survive.”

But as the team visited nearby homes and put up flyers in the area, there was nothing.

“It was like she just vanished,” Gray said.

But Mortimer felt she hadn’t. As long as Ashanti stayed off the busy highways, she knew the team had a chance. She was part of a team that once rescued a boxer named Payne in Evans City after 72 days on the run, so she refused to panic when the days turned into weeks.

The Polar Vortex that hit in late-January, though, made Team Ashanti step up its efforts.

“I knew it was imperative with the weather that we needed to get a camera feed to find this lost dog,” Mortimer said.

First, a trap was placed near the toll plaza where Ashanti was last seen. Team members set up trail cameras through apps on their phones to get alerts when there was movement at the traps.

“We bought the smelliest, stinkiest tuna and cat food that we can find. We used a liquid smoke that puts an odor that lingers in the air to draw the lost pet toward the trap,” Mortimer said. “When Nick came back through the area, we told him to bring some of his clothing with his scent on it.”

It was during this time that Jason received a few crank calls where the anonymous callers said they had hit her and she was dead.

“There are always a few mean people out there,” Mortimer said. “But we knew she was alive.”

The break they needed

Finally, the team got a break. Ashanti was seen near the toll booth where she was lost. Gray made the 4 1/2-hour drive back, and for two days, tracked his dog.

“I slept at the toll booth,” he said. “The toll manager came to talk to me because he got a report of a guy sleeping there. When I told him why I was there, he printed out his own flyers and hung them in the toll booth. He stayed in contact with me and let me know every time someone thought they saw her.”

But not only was the team up against a lost, frightened dog, it was also fighting temperatures that plunged as low as 30 degrees below zero in western Pennsylvania in late January and early February.

“Every time it got cold, she would disappear,” Gray said. “I heard from a dairy farmer in the area that she may have been taking shelter in one of his buildings during the bitter cold.

“I guess it was a miracle that she didn’t get hit, but I worked with her a lot with crossing parking lots and roads and would tell her that you have to look both ways and she actually would do that on her own. Somehow, she seemed to know to stay away from traffic.”

Holly Malacusky of Neshannock Township was a member of Team Ashanti. She saw a Facebook share by Mortimer and knew she wanted to help.

“I thought, what if that was me, what if that was my dog,” Malacusky said. “When we got the lead that a woman and her daughter had seen Ashanti at the toll booth, we went out there and got permission from the turnpike commission to look for her. Our spotters saw her but she ran.”

On the move

Lynn Reiber, an owner of Edward’s Restaurant who had participated in two other rescues with Mortimer and team member Jill Geissler, also joined Team Ashanti.

Reiber put the trail camera app on her phone, but for several days after the original sightings, there was nothing. Finally, Ashanti was seen at Wal-Mart on Feb. 7, then at the New Castle School of Trades on Pulaski Road/Route 422 on Feb. 12.

“When we heard she was at the school of trades, we put a trap there,” Reiber said. “The first night, we got movement on the trail cam, but ended up with a cat in there.”

From there, Ashanti was seen sleeping on a porch on Pulaski Road, then she headed north, to the industrial park off Route 376 in Neshannock Township, not far from Reiber’s home.

“When we got a call about her sleeping at the industrial park, I raced over there,” Reiber said. “I couldn’t find her anywhere. But I left some food so we could keep her in that area.

“I didn’t sleep much, but I didn’t mind,” Reiber added. “Once I knew she was nearby, I kept waiting to hear the trail cam beep.”

Ashanti was spotted at Paul’s Beverage and Silgan Ipec in the industrial park early on the morning of Feb. 15.

“I got there as fast as I could every time we saw movement or heard of a sighting,” Reiber said. “I let six cats and a raccoon out of the traps.”

Again, Ashanti made a move, this time heading south on Route 18 through Neshannock Township.

She was spotted near Chuck Tanner’s Restaurant and Nick’s Auto Body on Wilmington Road, then near St. Camillus Church on Feb. 16. The team moved a trap behind El Canelo Restaurant and on Feb. 17, Reiber baited it with an Arby’s sandwich and some taco meat.

At 11:11 p.m. that night, Ashanti was seen on the trail cam behind El Canelo, inches from the trap.

“Of course we all wanted to go there right away, but we knew we couldn’t,” Reiber said. “She would have run. We knew we had to let her go in the trap on her own. It was so hard to wait.”

Finally, at 11:14 p.m., Ashanti went after the food inside the trap and the door closed as team members watching their trail cams exploded in celebration.

“I literally sat there and bawled when I saw her head in the trap,” Reiber said. “I’m sure everyone else did, too.”

Reiber, Malacusky and another volunteer, Becky Work, raced to the trap.

“It was raining and very cold out, but she sat and looked at us and let us touch her. She was scared but seemed relieved that it was over,” Malacusky said. “There were a lot of happy tears that night.”

Ashanti was left in the trap as she was transported to Malucusky’s home so there was no chance of her escaping during a transfer. She was showered with love, then spent the night in a heated garage, eating, drinking and sleeping on a soft dog bed.

Going home

Since Gray was on another out-of-state trip, Malacusky and Mortimer met Joan and Jason halfway in Sandusky, Ohio, for the transfer a day later.

Joan immediately took Ashanti to the vet, where she was determined to have lost close to 30 pounds from her 100-pound frame, but was otherwise healthy. Ashanti waited with Joan at her home in Fenton, Michigan, until Gray returned from his trip.

“She was so excited, she knocked me down when I came in the door,” Gray said with a laugh. “I told her I sure wish she could talk because what a story she would have to tell.

“The rescue team, how can I ever thank them? If she was going to get lost, it couldn’t have happened in a more wonderful place. These people literally gave up their lives for almost a month to help a man and a dog they didn’t even know.”

Mortimer said that no thanks is necessary.

“Our reward is seeing the dog back with its owner,” she said. “That’s all any of us want.”

Gray said he will take every precaution to keep Ashanti safe in the future. The rescue team sent harnesses, leashes split in two and a martingale collar home with Ashanti.

“I will keep her triple-harnessed from here on out,” Gray said. “I debated on whether a dog would fit my lifestyle since I’m on the road so much, but as soon as I saw her picture, I knew she was mine. She’s my dream dog. But my biggest fear when I started taking her with me was no matter how careful I was, that someday she would get away from me and I would lose her.

“I don’t go anywhere without her. We have a fish tank at home and when I go to get a new fish, she looks around and nudges the one she wants when she sees it. And of course that’s the one that we buy.”

“I’ve been emotional since I lost her and it still feels unreal that I got her back,” he added. “It’s because of some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life that this happened. I will never, ever be able to repay them.”

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 [info from Fleetowner.com]

  • 1) Driver shortage: This will continue unabated. Some fleets are starting to put other kinds of incentives beyond signing bonuses in place. The truth is that signing bonuses have proven to be only moderately successful. We will see more things like mileage bonuses, longevity bonuses, safety bonuses and other performance-based incentives rewarding different aspects of the driver’s activity. These bonuses will boost driver pay in a different way than a simple cost-per-mile increase and will reward drivers for their efforts toward meeting goals.
  • 2) Recruitment/retention efforts will ramp up: There will be a major push and significant investment in things relayed to driver recruitment, employee communication and assimilation. Getting drivers is only half the story; keeping them is the real challenge. Resources will be deployed in an effort to see that once hired, drivers stick around. Communications will take on a more important role as younger employees expect to be communicated with frequently and demand transparency in the workplace.
  • 3) Long lead times will affect replacement cycles: As it stands today, lead times are so stretched that many OEMs don’t have build slots until well into 2019 and some are already totally built-out for the entire year. This situation is going to continue to affect asset replacement cycles which will put pressure on maintenance operations to keep trucks up-and-running as they are forced to continue to operate current assets longer than originally planned.
  • 4) Used truck uncertainty: While used truck values have remained high because of lack of availability of new trucks, there is a growing belief by industry experts that there will be a softening of used truck values in 2019.
  • 5) Electric truck development will continue: We will continue to see strides being made in the development of electric vehicles. However, the fact remains that since most fleets turn their assets over on a three, four or five year replacement cycle, any type of mass conversion to electric vehicles is still quite a ways off.

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[info from hotcars.com] Share

1) I-80 IN NEBRASKA
Nebraska is one of the most dangerous states for truck drivers in the nation, due almost entirely to the weather and harsh road conditions that result from it. The high winds in the open spaces prove to be a huge danger, leading most truckers to be rightly afraid.
The only other state that has similar winds is Wyoming, with the same kind of open space. In Nebraska, the winds blow, as pictured above, and it’s only made worse with winter ice. A rollover or a skid is nigh inevitable in those conditions.
2) TORNADO ALLEY



For truckers driving in mid-spring to early summer, driving anywhere on any of the highways throughout Tornado Alley, a rather large area in the US midwest, stretching between Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and the fringes of the bordering states.
Hail, extreme wind, tornadoes, rain, flooding, it all leads to a terrible driving experience, and truckers are rightly afraid to drive through this danger zone when the weather is bad. Avoiding it often in the best interests of truckers, if possible. 3) COLORADO’S MILLION DOLLAR HIGHWAY

While absolutely stunning, and perhaps one of the more scenic roads out there, Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway is a treacherous road that has steep grades, tight turns, and a worrying lack of guard rails in many places. There’s a reason many truckers don’t like this road.

Beyond don’t like, they are afraid of. It’s often ranked as one of the most dangerous roads. There’s some mystery as to where the name comes from, whether it’s the million dollar views, the cost of the road’s construction, or the local legend that a woman drove it and came down, saying that she wouldn’t take a million dollars to drive the road ever again.

4) INTERSTATE 4 IN FLORIDA

When it comes to driving in Florida, there aren’t a lot of routes that many drivers would be too keen on driving, due to congestion and traffic. Besides, no one actually wants to spend a lot of time doing, well anything in Florida. Besides relaxing on a beach.

Things are a little different for Interstate 4 in Florida, as this is a highway many truckers are afraid of driving on. Consistently ranked at the top of the list of most deadly highways in the US, as well as seeing almost two deaths per every mile last year, it’s really no wonder that truckers are afraid.

5) NORTH DAKOTA

While it might not seem like all that dangerous of a place, North Dakota is especially dangerous for truckers, not as much for other people. The death toll for truckers in North Dakota, according to businessinsider.com, is a startling 8.8%, compared to the national average around 2%.

Why is it so high? Most fatalities relate to the state’s oil boom, and the amount of transportation traffic that engenders and creates. If a trucker has to take a route through this northern state of the US, they best be on the lookout, paying extra attention to the roads.

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Peterbilt Motor Company has pledged at least $25,000 in support of the Women in Trucking Association (WIT), becoming the organization’s newest gold member and expanding the existing partnership between the two.

Since joining in 2016, Peterbilt has actively participated in the association as a corporate member, according to WIT.

“Peterbilt prides itself on having a diverse workforce, along with supporting organizations that share those same values,” Peterbilt General Manager Jason Skoog said. “Our proud sponsorship of Women in Trucking is reflective in our belief that they are doing great work in our industry.”

In addition to Peterbilt’s financial contribution, Michele Rodgers, director of Program Management, will also serve on the WIT Board of Directors.

“We are thrilled and grateful to be partnering with an influential business leader like Peterbilt,” said Ellen Voie, president and CEO of WIT. “The company’s passion and advocacy for diversifying the industry will be instrumental in advancing the WIT mission.”

WIT is a non-profit organization focused on the transportation and logistics industry.The organization focuses on encouraging the employment and education of women in trucking.

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Long-lost siblings discover each other, leading to unique relationship between trucker, students

[From kokomoperspective.com]

When Howard Elementary School second-grade teacher Dianne Taylor found out she had a 61-year-old half-brother last year, it was a shock — but she’s had some time to process it.

Over the past school year, she’s gotten to know her half-brother, Randy Gillam, who’s a truck driver for Tyson Foods, after inviting him to be a “trucker buddy” for her second-graders. His job was easy: he just had to mail postcards to her classroom from the different states he drove through.

He didn’t disappoint. Since the beginning of the school year, Taylor’s class has received more than 100 postcards, covering all but seven states.

“I suggested, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ And I really thought it would be a postcard here and there, but he took it and ran,” said Taylor.

Gillam sent his first postcard on Aug. 14 from Michigan, and he kept them coming. Soon, Taylor had enough cards that she created a display on a wall that said “Trucker Buddy Randy B. Gillam, Where Are You Now?” Postcards were tacked to the wall and connected with yarn to the state on a map of the U.S.

The Midwest and east side of the map filled up quickly, as Tyson Foods delivers to those areas and uses outside carriers to deliver to the west coast, said Gillam.

Gillam kept hearing from Taylor about how excited the students were when postcards arrived, and he said he really wanted to be able to give them postcards from the entire U.S., not just part of it. So, Gillam went to his dispatcher, Fleet Supervisor Adam Henry, explained what he was doing, and said that he would really like to get a west coast route.

And he got it.

“They said, ‘Yeah, we’ll get you a load. So I went to California immediately,” he said. “As soon as I presented that, they got back on the phone with me in 10 minutes and said they have a load.”

Now, the map is nearly full.

While Gillam has been communicating with the students for nearly an entire school year, he never had met them — or his half-sister — until last week. Gillam made a stop at Howard Elementary School for not only an educational opportunity for the students but also a family reunion.

Taylor said she was nervous to meet him for the first time.

“I was so nervous. My butterflies had butterflies in their stomach, but as soon as he texted me that he was here, it all went away,” she said.

Taylor’s students had interview questions prepared for Gillam, and they asked him everything from what’s the longest trip he’s made (3,500 miles) and what he eats while on the road (he cooks a lot on a one-burner stove) to how many pets he has (six dogs and one cat) and how many children he has (one son, two daughters, and six grandchildren).

Afterward, he took the students outside to tour his semi.

“I never saw inside a real-life semi before. It’s just like I imagined it would be. It’s so cool,” said second-grade student Ava Eytcheson after she jumped out of the truck.

Back inside, Gillem gave all of the students gift bags he made that contained neon sock caps with “Tyson” written across them and candy.

Student Dakota Gibson said it was exciting to meet the man behind the postcards.

“I learned a lot about him. I learned that he’s very kind and that he has a lot of kids,” she said.

Gillam said he’s had more fun with the project than the kids have. He thanked Tyson Foods for making the program possible and for allowing him to give the students a tour of the country right from their classroom.

Going forward, Taylor hopes Gillam continues to be a trucker buddy for her students, as she said it’s been not only “a treat” but also an educational opportunity.

“[The postcards] help us dream and imagine of places we have not seen with our own eyes. Through these postcards, students enjoy learning geography, climate, and what states are known for and the things these states hold dear. The postcards give the students a meaningful base to initiate additional exploration of our great nation,” she said.

In addition, the class did “trucker buddy math” that incorporated telling time, money values, calculating miles traveled, miles to go, and time intervals. For the final project of the year, the students will create graphs based off of the postcards and have a chance to earn postcards from the “wall of fame.”

Now, she’s looking forward to continuing to build her relationship with her half-brother and hopes he’ll continue to be a “trucker buddy” for her students.

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[from CDLLife.com]

[from CDLLife.com]

A trucking company is sharing the story of how one of their drivers saved the life of a fellow truck driver while he was waiting for his truck to get unloaded.

On Thursday, April 4, Hirschbach shared a Facebook post detailing how one of their newest drivers, Army veteran Rick Shearer stepped up to save the life of trucker suffering from a medical emergency.

Hirschbach writes:

Just 3 days shy of his 1 month anniversary with Hirschbach and hes already marking his way as a Hirschbach Hero. Richard “Ricky” is an Army Veteran who did two tours overseas but his duties protecting others didn’t just stop there. On Sunday March 31st Ricky happened to be at the right place at the right time to save a mans life. Ricky was in Mebane, NC waiting to get unloaded with the window down listening to music when he heard a loud scream from a woman. He turned his music down and heard it again and instantly jumped out of his truck and followed where the screams were coming from. Ricky came upon a couple who teamed for KLLM Transport. The Wife was panicking as her husband laid unresponsive on the ground. Ricky instantly jumped into action and started administering CPR while his wife was screaming and panicked behind him. Walmart Management came out to assist Ricky with the Defibrillator and shocked him twice before paramedics arrived. Ricky remembers watching as they continued working on him and a paramedic stating that he was gone. Ricky went back to his truck still in shock but yet saddened at the loss of a fellow driver, until he got a knock at his truck door from management and a police officer who shook his hand and stated “Son I don’t know who you are but god put you here for a reason you saved his life”. We our honored to have Ricky part of our team and for that reason we nominated him. –Hirschbach

Shearer’s story gone viral since it was shared on Facebook. It has already been liked more than 1000 times and shared more than 300 times.

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[info from ttnews.com]

Despite growing concerns in the trucking industry over a rise in the legal use of marijuana, there is a general lack of research on the relationship between use of the drug and crashes, as well as a need for better law-enforcement tools and training to detect impaired-driver use of the drug, according to new research by the American Transportation Research Institute.

“While increased access to marijuana has not directly impacted the trucking industry in terms of truck drivers testing positive for marijuana, the increased frequency of marijuana-positive drivers operating on the same roadways as trucks makes marijuana-impaired driving a critical safety issue for the trucking industry,” concluded the ATRI report released March 13.

After decades in which marijuana was an illegal substance in the United States, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of the drug.

Despite the conflicting legal status of the drug among states and the federal government, the use of marijuana by truck and bus drivers remains illegal, a violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.

ATRI’s report concluded that marijuana impairment while driving is likely to become a larger problem as legal access to the drug increases.

Brewster

“The motivator for this report being picked as a top priority by our research board was the recognition that regardless of how you feel about the legalization of marijuana, it is going to have a resulting safety impact,” ATRI President Rebecca Brewster told Transport Topics. “We’re going to be sharing the road with more drivers impaired from marijuana. Our board decided to get ahead of this issue to identify the challenges and potential recommendations to improve roadway safety.”

ATRI has been researching the topic since last fall, Brewster said.

One of the study’s most significant conclusions was that while accurate tools to test for and prosecute drunken driving exist, similarly accepted tools and methods are not available for marijuana-impairment testing. “As a result, truck drivers in many states now face the significant risk of having legal marijuana users drive impaired (and illegally) alongside their trucks.”

“Recent national statistics for marijuana-positive drug tests, for instance, indicate that 2.6% of drug tests were marijuana-positive in 2017 — a 4% year-over-year increase from 2016,” the ATRI study said. “Marijuana-positive drug tests for federally mandated, safety-sensitive occupations have also increased by nearly 8% from 2016 to 2017.”

While it may be legal in some states to consume marijuana, the intoxicating effects of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, include poor judgment, decreased motor coordination and decreased reaction time. The key findings of research on marijuana’s impact on behavior and driving-related cognitive functions also include divided attention, inability to maintain lane position and attempts to compensate by increasing following distance and being less likely to pass other vehicles, the ATRI study said.

While standard roadside field sobriety tests are used for alcohol, such testing is not evidence of active impairment or intoxication for marijuana due to the body’s mechanisms for processing THC, ATRI said.

“Unlike alcohol, THC in blood tests are not reliable indicators of driver impairment,” the ATRI report said. “However, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, for instance, offers evidence that some state laws allow an individual to be charged with a DUI if they test positive for THC derivatives in urine following arrest, which indicates marijuana use in the past 30 days but not necessarily recent marijuana use.”

ATRI said that while federal funds are being used to educate prosecutors and judges on drug-impaired driving cases, efforts to prosecute drug-impaired driving have been met with numerous setbacks.

“For example, Arizona requires ‘proof’ of impaired driving but does not have per se limits on THC blood concentrations,” the report said. “Conversely, Massachusetts has challenged the ability of field sobriety tests to accurately identify marijuana impairment.”

The ATRI study said that documenting the prevalence of drug-impaired driving is critical to understanding the magnitude of the issue.

“Whether or not the federal government recognizes the legality of marijuana, it should take the lead on related federal data collection programs,” ATRI said. “Key to this role is identifying and conveying standards for state- and local-level data collection by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”

Specifically, transportation and law-enforcement officials should collect data on the marijuana-impaired number of crashes, injuries and fatalities; number of drug tests administered and rate of negative drug tests; number of marijuana-related DUI charges and conviction rates; and the prevalence of marijuana use while driving.

“Law enforcement officers also need additional resources to support DUI investigations with biological testing,” ATRI said. “The rapid degradation of THC in blood necessitates testing a DUI suspect for drugs quickly.”

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[info from detroitnews.com]

New Castle, Pa. – For 25 days, Ashanti eluded her rescuers.

Over a 10-mile stretch, up and down Interstate 376 and into Union and Neshannock townships, a group of 15 determined animal lovers tracked the lost dog from Michigan. Each time they got close, her survival instincts kicked in and she went deeper into flight mode.

In the end, though, the 2-year-old Presa Canario was no match for Team Ashanti.

Ashanti is home today because of a group of rescuers who simply refused to give up during nearly a month of relentless searching though biting rain, whipping winds and a Polar Vortex.

The fateful day

The 100-pound dog disappeared from the Moravia (Route 168) exit off I-376 on Jan. 24 when her owner, Nick Gray, a semi truck driver from Jeddo, Michigan, pulled over to give her a bathroom break.

“She kept bumping me to let know she had to go to the bathroom,” he said. “I looked for a truck stop but couldn’t find one and I thought I’d just shoot off this exit and then jump back on the ramp.


“She jumped down and within seconds, pulled her collar right over her ears. She’s never even tried to do anything like that before. It happened so fast, before I could react. She started to run toward the road and I firmly told her ‘no.’ “

The recognition of those words ultimately may have saved Ashanti’s life.

She returned to the shoulder, but then took off running.

“I was frantic,” Gray said. “I searched and called for her for an hour and a half, hoping she would show up, but eventually I had to leave to do my job. I didn’t want to go, but I knew she could by anywhere by then.”

Gray enlisted the help of his brother, Jason, who found the Lawrence County Animal Helpers and other lost pet pages on Facebook and pleaded for help. Immediately, a group of rescuers led by Leslie Mortimer contacted Jason.

And Team Ashanti was born.

Joining forces

Mortimer, who lives in Portersville, has been assembling teams to track lost animals for six years. Ashanti, whose breed is a member of the Mastiff family, tore at her heartstrings right away.

“My son is Nick’s age and he is a truck driver and has a Mastiff,” she said. “I knew we had to find his dog.

“The Gray family was phenomenal to work with. They did everything right. Jason networked like crazy and then he literally manned his phone 24/7. Our volunteers put up 350 flyers. And the community jumped in to help. Without those people who reported sightings, we wouldn’t have had a place to start.”

Mortimer started with five to six volunteers and before long, a team of 18 from Lawrence, Beaver, Butler and Allegheny counties was assembled. They formed a group chat that included Nick, Jason and their mom, Joan.

“We had boots on the ground pretty quickly, starting at the toll booth area where she was lost,” Mortimer said. “Lost dogs go into survival mode within 24 to 48 hours. They know to find shelter, lay low and conserve their energy. They also become very nocturnal and they rely very heavily on their sense of smell to find food to survive.”

But as the team visited nearby homes and put up flyers in the area, there was nothing.

“It was like she just vanished,” Gray said.

But Mortimer felt she hadn’t. As long as Ashanti stayed off the busy highways, she knew the team had a chance. She was part of a team that once rescued a boxer named Payne in Evans City after 72 days on the run, so she refused to panic when the days turned into weeks.

The Polar Vortex that hit in late-January, though, made Team Ashanti step up its efforts.

“I knew it was imperative with the weather that we needed to get a camera feed to find this lost dog,” Mortimer said.

First, a trap was placed near the toll plaza where Ashanti was last seen. Team members set up trail cameras through apps on their phones to get alerts when there was movement at the traps.

“We bought the smelliest, stinkiest tuna and cat food that we can find. We used a liquid smoke that puts an odor that lingers in the air to draw the lost pet toward the trap,” Mortimer said. “When Nick came back through the area, we told him to bring some of his clothing with his scent on it.”

It was during this time that Jason received a few crank calls where the anonymous callers said they had hit her and she was dead.

“There are always a few mean people out there,” Mortimer said. “But we knew she was alive.”

The break they needed

Finally, the team got a break. Ashanti was seen near the toll booth where she was lost. Gray made the 4 1/2-hour drive back, and for two days, tracked his dog.

“I slept at the toll booth,” he said. “The toll manager came to talk to me because he got a report of a guy sleeping there. When I told him why I was there, he printed out his own flyers and hung them in the toll booth. He stayed in contact with me and let me know every time someone thought they saw her.”

But not only was the team up against a lost, frightened dog, it was also fighting temperatures that plunged as low as 30 degrees below zero in western Pennsylvania in late January and early February.

“Every time it got cold, she would disappear,” Gray said. “I heard from a dairy farmer in the area that she may have been taking shelter in one of his buildings during the bitter cold.

“I guess it was a miracle that she didn’t get hit, but I worked with her a lot with crossing parking lots and roads and would tell her that you have to look both ways and she actually would do that on her own. Somehow, she seemed to know to stay away from traffic.”

Holly Malacusky of Neshannock Township was a member of Team Ashanti. She saw a Facebook share by Mortimer and knew she wanted to help.

“I thought, what if that was me, what if that was my dog,” Malacusky said. “When we got the lead that a woman and her daughter had seen Ashanti at the toll booth, we went out there and got permission from the turnpike commission to look for her. Our spotters saw her but she ran.”

On the move

Lynn Reiber, an owner of Edward’s Restaurant who had participated in two other rescues with Mortimer and team member Jill Geissler, also joined Team Ashanti.

Reiber put the trail camera app on her phone, but for several days after the original sightings, there was nothing. Finally, Ashanti was seen at Wal-Mart on Feb. 7, then at the New Castle School of Trades on Pulaski Road/Route 422 on Feb. 12.

“When we heard she was at the school of trades, we put a trap there,” Reiber said. “The first night, we got movement on the trail cam, but ended up with a cat in there.”

From there, Ashanti was seen sleeping on a porch on Pulaski Road, then she headed north, to the industrial park off Route 376 in Neshannock Township, not far from Reiber’s home.

“When we got a call about her sleeping at the industrial park, I raced over there,” Reiber said. “I couldn’t find her anywhere. But I left some food so we could keep her in that area.

“I didn’t sleep much, but I didn’t mind,” Reiber added. “Once I knew she was nearby, I kept waiting to hear the trail cam beep.”

Ashanti was spotted at Paul’s Beverage and Silgan Ipec in the industrial park early on the morning of Feb. 15.

“I got there as fast as I could every time we saw movement or heard of a sighting,” Reiber said. “I let six cats and a raccoon out of the traps.”

Again, Ashanti made a move, this time heading south on Route 18 through Neshannock Township.

She was spotted near Chuck Tanner’s Restaurant and Nick’s Auto Body on Wilmington Road, then near St. Camillus Church on Feb. 16. The team moved a trap behind El Canelo Restaurant and on Feb. 17, Reiber baited it with an Arby’s sandwich and some taco meat.

At 11:11 p.m. that night, Ashanti was seen on the trail cam behind El Canelo, inches from the trap.

“Of course we all wanted to go there right away, but we knew we couldn’t,” Reiber said. “She would have run. We knew we had to let her go in the trap on her own. It was so hard to wait.”

Finally, at 11:14 p.m., Ashanti went after the food inside the trap and the door closed as team members watching their trail cams exploded in celebration.

“I literally sat there and bawled when I saw her head in the trap,” Reiber said. “I’m sure everyone else did, too.”

Reiber, Malacusky and another volunteer, Becky Work, raced to the trap.

“It was raining and very cold out, but she sat and looked at us and let us touch her. She was scared but seemed relieved that it was over,” Malacusky said. “There were a lot of happy tears that night.”

Ashanti was left in the trap as she was transported to Malucusky’s home so there was no chance of her escaping during a transfer. She was showered with love, then spent the night in a heated garage, eating, drinking and sleeping on a soft dog bed.

Going home

Since Gray was on another out-of-state trip, Malacusky and Mortimer met Joan and Jason halfway in Sandusky, Ohio, for the transfer a day later.

Joan immediately took Ashanti to the vet, where she was determined to have lost close to 30 pounds from her 100-pound frame, but was otherwise healthy. Ashanti waited with Joan at her home in Fenton, Michigan, until Gray returned from his trip.

“She was so excited, she knocked me down when I came in the door,” Gray said with a laugh. “I told her I sure wish she could talk because what a story she would have to tell.

“The rescue team, how can I ever thank them? If she was going to get lost, it couldn’t have happened in a more wonderful place. These people literally gave up their lives for almost a month to help a man and a dog they didn’t even know.”

Mortimer said that no thanks is necessary.

“Our reward is seeing the dog back with its owner,” she said. “That’s all any of us want.”

Gray said he will take every precaution to keep Ashanti safe in the future. The rescue team sent harnesses, leashes split in two and a martingale collar home with Ashanti.

“I will keep her triple-harnessed from here on out,” Gray said. “I debated on whether a dog would fit my lifestyle since I’m on the road so much, but as soon as I saw her picture, I knew she was mine. She’s my dream dog. But my biggest fear when I started taking her with me was no matter how careful I was, that someday she would get away from me and I would lose her.

“I don’t go anywhere without her. We have a fish tank at home and when I go to get a new fish, she looks around and nudges the one she wants when she sees it. And of course that’s the one that we buy.”

“I’ve been emotional since I lost her and it still feels unreal that I got her back,” he added. “It’s because of some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life that this happened. I will never, ever be able to repay them.”

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 [info from Fleetowner.com]

  • 1) Driver shortage: This will continue unabated. Some fleets are starting to put other kinds of incentives beyond signing bonuses in place. The truth is that signing bonuses have proven to be only moderately successful. We will see more things like mileage bonuses, longevity bonuses, safety bonuses and other performance-based incentives rewarding different aspects of the driver’s activity. These bonuses will boost driver pay in a different way than a simple cost-per-mile increase and will reward drivers for their efforts toward meeting goals.
  • 2) Recruitment/retention efforts will ramp up: There will be a major push and significant investment in things relayed to driver recruitment, employee communication and assimilation. Getting drivers is only half the story; keeping them is the real challenge. Resources will be deployed in an effort to see that once hired, drivers stick around. Communications will take on a more important role as younger employees expect to be communicated with frequently and demand transparency in the workplace.
  • 3) Long lead times will affect replacement cycles: As it stands today, lead times are so stretched that many OEMs don’t have build slots until well into 2019 and some are already totally built-out for the entire year. This situation is going to continue to affect asset replacement cycles which will put pressure on maintenance operations to keep trucks up-and-running as they are forced to continue to operate current assets longer than originally planned.
  • 4) Used truck uncertainty: While used truck values have remained high because of lack of availability of new trucks, there is a growing belief by industry experts that there will be a softening of used truck values in 2019.
  • 5) Electric truck development will continue: We will continue to see strides being made in the development of electric vehicles. However, the fact remains that since most fleets turn their assets over on a three, four or five year replacement cycle, any type of mass conversion to electric vehicles is still quite a ways off.

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 [info from DynamicTransit]

Truck drivers and chronic back pain go hand in hand due to long hours in the seat and near-constant vibrations from the road. There are easy stretches and adjustments drivers can make throughout the day to make truck driving friendlier to your back.

Before you get out of bed

There are some great stretches to warm your back before you rise from the bunk. Remember with stretching to take it slow, keep breathing, and don’t pull the muscles past the point of relief.

1. Pelvic Lift

Begin on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on your bunk. Place your arms at your sides for support. Take a deep breath, and as you inhale, slowly lift your back side off the mattress. Hold for as long as is comfortable then slowly lower your back side to the mattress.

2.   Knee-To-Chest

Back in the starting position, slowly pull one knee to your chest and hold it with your hands just below the knee cap. Hold for a few seconds then slowly release your leg to starting position. Repeat this with the opposite leg.

3. Knee Drops

From starting position, keep your knees together and slowly drop them to the right. Your shoulders should stay flat on your bunk while your hips rotate. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the movement on your left side.

During the day

Posture is probably the most important factor in preventing back pain. It will feel awkward at first, but become aware your body’s alignment during your day.

1. Adjust your seat.

Before you hit the road, take a couple of minutes to consider your seat. If you prefer to drive with your legs straight out, pull your seat in a few inches to bend your knees. Straight legs may be putting too much strain on your sciatic nerve, the body’s largest nerve that runs from the lower spine through the back of the leg. When the sciatic nerve is strained, pain can light up everything between your back and your toes.

Also, don’t forget about the backrest. Pull the backrest into a position that allows your shoulders to rest comfortably against it while sitting up straight. Too many drivers lean forward over their steering wheel to stretch their back but doing so pulls the back even further into poor posture.

2. Go for a walk.

A few laps around the truck in the morning or while waiting for the loading/unloading process stretches all of your joints. A good heel-to-toe step with shoulders back and head up align your hips, back, and neck.

3. Check your neck.

While driving, be aware of where you tend to hold your head. Is it out in front of your shoulders, way back against the headrest, or comfortably level between the two? Adjust your posture to align your hips, back, and shoulders comfortably. With your head in the new position, adjust your mirrors for your ideal posture. Your mirrors will remind you to straighten up.

Want to learn how to save and make more money on the road with our benefits for owner operators and small fleets? Click here.

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